Thursday, January 26, 2012

How do you talk to normal people?

Normal people confuse me suddenly.  I have realized at this part in my career, where I have been fully indoctrinated into my discipline and the academic world, I am no longer part of the general population.  I don't say this to be uppity because I don't believe my knowledge of  a small part of the world entitles me to feel superior.  And yeah, I study social policy. I can't feel too uppity since that i the one thing that I loathe most!  But I mean, I don't talk like a normal person.

Whenever I talk to my parents, my sister, my friends who don't do this work, or my extended family, I often go off on a tangent about various things:
-tenure track jobs and how I desperately need one
-technical health policy documentation, bills
-the problems with defining poverty
-other countries and the way they handle health care
-R1's and how I want to work for one
-fellowships I would like abroad
-department politics
-dealing with students

None of these make much sense to the average person.  God bless my family for being supportive and trying to understand my jargon and why I would want a shirt that says "stop staring at my normal bimodal distribution".  My mother works in an engineering department and designs parts.  My dad is a banker.  Nothing makes much of a bridge to their worlds.  While my dad loves politics and we often discuss economic policy, my mother loathes our post-dinner discussions with a bottle of wine.  And even then, my father has never taken  statistics course like myself.

I found myself rattling on about coding to my mother last night and a publication I am working on with a faculty member I love.  My mother knows about the faculty members that matter to me because they are great people and I talk a lot about them, but she doesn't care about coding or a cross-sectional, time series study on Canadian welfare policy.

Reminding myself to not use jargon is something my colleagues also do every day.  We have a hard time in the "real world" not because what we do is irrelevant or is unimportant, but because of our technical language.  It's not unique to my discipline or academia, I just didn't anticipate this would ever happen.  I was warned, but I never thought it would be this dire!


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